BEYOND THE BALLOT: Best Actress 1987 – The Nominated Five

I wasn’t planning on doing this year, but they I was able to rewatch Moonstruck. After that, I was inspired to watch Broadcast News and Anna.

So here we are, discussing the five performances nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1987. And what a year this is! Not only there is variety in this lineup in the films and performances, but the quality of this line-up is off-the-charts.

We have:

Cher, from the romantic comedy Moonstruck.
Glenn Close, from the erotic thriller Fatal Attraction.
Holly Hunter, from the satire Broadcast News.
Sally Kirkland, from the independent drama Anna.
And Meryl Streep, from the period drama Ironweed.

Here is my personal ranking of the five performances:

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1 – Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (as Alex Forrest)

Take away the iconic status of this performance and what we have is a surprisingly vulnerable take on a character that the film so insistently tries to villainize. The film may have aged a bit in terms of its representation of infidelity, but Glenn Close’s work remains to be a potent examination of emotional fragility and instability. She manages to escape all shortcuts and broad strokes of this character. Career-best work for sure.

2 – Meryl Streep in Ironweed (as Helen Archer)

An unfairly underrated performance from her revered repertoire, Meryl Streep surprised me with a performance that is both haunting and devastating. It’s a performance that distills despair and hopelessness in such an effective way. Streep plays not a whole human being, but the remains of a once-alive person that is slowly disintegrating. She comes in late and leaves early, but the power of this performance stays.

3 – Holly Hunter in Broadcast News (as Jane Craig)

I’m on the side that thinks Broadcast News is more of a satire than a romantic comedy. Either way, Holly Hunter nails the steely, determined nature of this character that must have been and IS a powerful image of career woman. She benefits from strong writing and wonderful dynamic with her fellow actors. And when the film turns dark, she expertly navigates the grey areas of the story. She is in command and commanding in every scene effortlessly.

4 – Sally Kirkland in Anna (as Anna)Unlike the rest of the nominees, she does not benefit from her film AT ALL. It’s a confused film that made one perplexing choice after the other. So there is Sally Kirkland, giving it all in a freaking tour-de-force that doesn’t necessarily try to salvage the film that’s around her but defies all odds and creates an unforgettable portrayal of defeat and loss.

5 – Cher in Moonstruck (as Loretta Castorini)

Cher just radiates in a performance that is vanity-free and lived in. She benefits from witty writing that possesses a very specific tone of humor, and Cher gets the spirit of the material. It is deceptively low-key, but it is a performance that never coasts merely on charm. There is delicate maneuvering here, and Cher is the reliable core of this film.

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And here are the probable runners-up of this race:

Lillian Gish – The Whales of August
Faye Dunaway – Barfly
Barbra Streisand – Nuts
Bette Davis – The Whales of August
Rachel Levin – Gaby: A True Story
Diane Keaton – Baby Boom

And here is the rest of the field (please tell me if I missed anyone):

Anne Bancroft – 84 Charing Cross Road
Ellen Barkin – The Big Easy
Cher – The Witches of Eastwick
Cher – Suspect
Lindsay Crouse – House of Games
Jennifer Grey – Dirty Dancing
Daryl Hannah – Roxanne
Barbara Hershey – Shy People
Holly Hunter – Raising Arizona
Anjelica Huston – The Dead
Christine Lahti – Housekeeping
Emily Lloyd – Wish You Were Here
Carmen Maura – Law of Desire
Sheila McCarthy – I’ve Heard the Mermaids Sing
Bette Midler – Outrageous Fortune
Sarah Miles – Hope and Glory
Vanessa Redgrave – Prick up Your Ears
Theresa Russell – Black Widow
Debra Sandlund – Tough Guys Don’t Dance
Louise Smith – Working Girls
Maggie Smith – The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Julie Walters – Personal Services
Debra Winger – Black Widow
Joanne Woodward – The Glass Menagerie
Robin Wright – The Princess Bride

Could A Star is Born Win Picture, Actress, and Actor at the Oscars?

After the strong critical reception and the foreseeable box-office prominence, A Star is Born is poised to be a formidable contender in Best Picture, Actress, and Actor.

Bradley Cooper gets career-best reviews while Lady Gaga has the (no pun intended) ‘a star is born’ narrative that does well especially in Best Actress. The film itself, also produced, has been positively received since it premiered in Venice. This is probably even going to be the frontrunner in the Golden Globes where musicals have a separate category.

In fact, some pundits are even predicting that the film will win all three awards at the Academy Awards. But historically speaking, could the film pull off this feat? After some tinkering with the Academy Awards’ history, here are the stats that might go for or against the chances of A Star is Born winning these awards.

Here are the stats, and this is gonna be long. Only for Oscar nerds and the curious. Winners are in bold.

There are 80 Best Actress/Actor nominees coming from the same film.

From this, 62 are from Best Picture nominees.

Out of the 62, only three won Best Picture, Actress, and Actor. They are:

  • It Happened One Night (1934) – Claudette ColbertClark Gable
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – Louise Fletcher / Jack Nicholson
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – Jodie Foster / Anthony Hopkins

Take note: all of these films were the also the only Big Five winners (Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay).

Four films won Best Actress and Actor but not Best Picture. They are:

  • Network (1976) – Faye Dunaway / Peter Finch + William Holden
  • Coming Home (1978) – Jane Fonda / Jon Voight
  • On Golden Pond (1981) – Katharine Hepburn / Henry Fonda
  • As Good as It Gets (1997) – Helen Hunt / Jack Nicholson

Five films won Best Picture and Actress but not Best Actor. They are:

  • Gone with the Wind (1939) – Vivian Leigh / Clark Gable
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942) – Greer Garson / Walter Pidgeon
  • Annie Hall (1977) – Diane Keaton / Woody Allen
  • Driving Miss Daisy (1989) – Jessica Tandy / Morgan Freeman
  • Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Hilary Swank / Clint Eastwood

Only one film won Best Picture and Actor but not Best Actress. It is:

  • American Beauty (1999) – Annette Bening / Kevin Spacey

Eleven (11) films won Best Actress but not Best Picture and Actor. They are:

  • Gaslight (1944) – Ingrid Bergman / Charles Boyer
  • Johnny Belinda (1948) – Jane Wyman / Lew Ayres
  • A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) – Vivian Leigh / Marlon Brando
  • The Country Girl (1954) – Grace Kelly / Bing Crosby
  • Room at the Top (1959) – Simone Signoret / Laurence Harvey
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) – Elizabeth Taylor / Richard Burton
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – Katharine Hepburn / Spencer Tracy
  • The Lion in Winter (1968) – Katharine Hepburn / Peter O’ Toole
  • Children of a Lesser God (1986) – Marlee Matlin / William Hurt
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Jennifer Lawrence / Bradley Cooper
  • La La Land (2016) – Emma Stone / Ryan Gosling

Six films won Best Actor but not Best Picture and Actress. They are:

  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) – Greer Garson / Robert Donat
  • The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Katharine Hepburn / James Stewart
  • The King and I (1956) – Deborah Kerr / Yul Brynner
  • Separate Table (1958) – Deborah Kerr / David Niven
  • The Goodbye Girl (1977) – Marsha Mason / Richard Dreyfuss
  • The Theory of Everything (2014) – Felicity Jones / Eddie Redmayne

Seven films won Best Picture but not Best Actress and Actor. They are:

  • Cimarron (1930-31) – Irene Dunne / Richard Dix
  • Rebecca (1940) – Joan Fontaine / Laurence Olivier
  • Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) – Dorothy McGuire / Gregory Peck
  • From Here to Eternity (1953) – Deborah Kerr / Montgomery Clift + Burt Lancaster
  • The Apartment (1960) – Shirley Maclaine / Jack Lemmon
  • Rocky (1976) – Talia Shire / Sylvester Stallone
  • The English Patient (1996) – Kristin Scott Thomas / Ralph Fiennes

Twenty-five (25) films did not win Best Picture, Actress, and Actor. They are:

  • A Star is Born (1937) – Janet Gaynor / Fredric March
  • Pygmalion (1938) – Wendy Hiller / Leslie Howard
  • The Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Teresa Wright / Gary Cooper
  • Madame Curie (1943) – Greer Garson / Walter Pidgeon
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) – Ingrid Bergman / Gary Cooper
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) – Ingrid Bergman / Bing Crosby
  • The Yearling (1946) – Jane Wyman / Gregory Peck
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950) – Gloria Swanson / William Holden
  • A Place in the Sun (1951) – Shelley Winters / Montgomery Clift
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) – Elizabeth Taylor / Paul Newman
  • The Hustler (1961) – Piper Laurie / Paul Newman
  • Ship of Fools (1965) – Simone Signoret / Oskar Werner
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – Faye Dunaway / Warren Beatty
  • The Graduate (1967) – Anne Bancroft / Dustin Hoffman
  • Anne of the Thousand Days (1969) – Genevieve Bujold / Richard Burton
  • Love Story (1970) – Ali McGraw / Ryan O’ Neal
  • Lenny (1974) – Valerie Perrine / Dustin Hoffman
  • Chinatown (1974) – Faye Dunaway / Jack Nicholson
  • Atlantic City (1981) – Susan Sarandon / Burt Lancaster
  • Reds (1981) – Diane Keaton / Warren Beatty
  • Missing (1982) – Sissy Spacek / Jack Lemmon
  • Broadcast News (1987) – Holly Hunter / William Hurt
  • The Remains of the Day (1993) – Emma Thompson / Anthony Hopkins
  • In the Bedroom (2001) – Sissy Spacek / Tom Wilkinson
  • American Hustle (2013) – Amy Adams / Christian Bale

Eighteen (18) films have Best Actress and Actor nominations but not Best Picture.

None of the 18 have won both Best Actress and Best Actor.

Out of the 18, three films won Best Actress but not Best Actor. They are:

  • Hud (1963) – Patricia Neal / Paul Newman
  • Dead Man Walking (1995) – Susan Sarandon / Sean Penn
  • Walk the Line (2005) – Reese Witherspoon / Joaquin Phoenix

Three films won Best Actor but not Best Actress. They are:

  • A Free Soul (1930-31) – Norma Shearer / Lionel Barrymore
  • The African Queen (1951) – Katharine Hepburn / Humphrey Bogart
  • Leaving Las Vegas (1995) – Elisabeth Shue / Nicholas Cage

Thirteen (13) films did not win both Best Actress and Best Actor. They are:

  • The Guardsman (1931-32) – Lynn Fontanne / Alfred Lunt
  • My Man Godfrey (1936) – Carole Lombard / William Powell
  • Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) – Rosalind Russell / Michael Redgrave
  • A Star is Born (1954) – Judy Garland / James Mason
  • Wild is the Wind (1957) – Anna Magnani / Anthony Quinn
  • Days of Wine and Roses (1962) – Lee Remick / Jack Lemmon
  • This Sporting Life (1963) – Rachel Roberts / Richard Harris
  • The Great White Hope (1970) – Jane Alexander / James Earl Jones
  • The China Syndrome (1979) – Jane Fonda / Jack Lemmon
  • Educating Rita (1983) – Julie Walters / Michael Caine
  • Ironweed (1987) – Meryl Streep / Jack Nicholson
  • What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993) – Angela Bassett / Laurence Fishburne

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Fun Fact: The other two versions of A Star is Born (1937 and 1954) have also been nominated for Best Actress and Actor.

Do you think this year’s version will win Best Actor? Or Best Actress? Or Best Picture? Or all those three?

Academy Award for Best Actress: Class of 2018

If there’s any reason to be excited about the 91st Academy Awards, it is definitely not the cringe-inducing introduction of the “Best Popular Film” nor the blatant disrespect to film craftspeople by relegating the less popular categories to pre-edited clips during commercial breaks. Seriously, shame on ABC for putting these profit-driven pressures to the Oscars and shame on the Academy for giving in and not becoming steadfast in its supposed commitment to film awareness and appreciation.

As a queer film school alumnus, these are the categories that always interest me:

  • Best Picture, for becoming a reflection of the strength of the field of contenders vis-à-vis the over-all pulse of the Academy’s current membership;
  • Best Directing, for rewarding the visionaries of cinema;
  • Best Original/Adapted Screenplay, for shedding a light on this writer’s craft;
  • Best Foreign Language Film, for celebrating the diversity of cinematic voices around Europe the world (they’re making strides these past years);
  • Best Documentary Feature, for putting a spotlight on these courageous artists who does an almost-journalistic method of filmmaking.

And of course, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.

Yes, Supporting Actress also gets some of my love, but Leading Actress category most likely reflects the state of the mostly male-driven film industry in its efforts to represent stories of different kinds of women. We should be past the time when we only see women as whores, wives, or witches. History has suppressed stories about women, and now more than ever, it is very urgent to tell female-driven stories in all platforms.

That is perhaps the reason why I was drawn to television. Remember when I started my own project here called Beyond the Ballot: Women in Film and the Academy Awards?

It was supposed to be my exploration of the female lead roles in the past years, but then I gradually leaned towards witnessing complex roles for women in television. Needless to say, I am emotionally invested in the Best Actress Race at the Emmys.

Going back, I have read some comments saying that this year for female leads in film is thin compared to last year. Truth be told, there has been an embarrassment of riches for female leads in contention since 2015 (and I would even dare say 2014).

After watching my first film of 2018: Björn Runge’s The Wife starring six-time Academy Award nominee Glenn Close, I knew I had to go back to my first love which is Best Actress in film.

Sony Pictures Classics did the right thing of holding back the film from its 2017 premiere at TIFF to its release this weekend (the film was screened a week earlier in the Philippines, giving me the chance to see it). And it must be said: Glenn Close is glorious in this film. Though the film struggles to catch up with her greatness, she owns this film, and it would be a satisfying win given the performance and the overdue narrative. She is rightfully the early frontrunner of this race.

However, the race is far from over. There are a lot of possible contenders, from expected Best Picture players to potential longshots, this year should prove to be an exciting year for Best Actress. Therefore, precursor awards should not feel lazy preordaining a selected few just because they feel the need to predict the ultimate winner at the Academy Awards.

As of August 17, 2018, here are my predictions for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role:

PREDICTED NOMINEES (a combination of educated and wildcard guesses):

01. Glenn Close – The Wife
02. Lady Gaga – A Star is Born
03. Viola Davis – Widows
04. Kiki Layne – If Beale Street Could Talk
05. Toni Collette – Hereditary

SOLID CONTENDERS (if all of these fare well, look at here for the alternate choices):

06. Saoirse Ronan – Mary, Queen of Scots
07. Melissa McCarthy – Can You Ever Forgive Me?
08. Nicole Kidman – Destroyer
09. Olivia Colman – The Favourite
10. Carey Mulligan – Wildlife
11. Emily Blunt – Mary Poppins Returns
12. Felicity Jones – On the Basis of Sex
13. Emma Thompson – The Children Act
14. Judi Dench – Red Joan
15. Keira Knightley – Colette

IN THE MIX (definitely in the hunt for the nomination):

16. Julianne Moore – Gloria Bell
17. Margot Robbie – Mary, Queen of Scors
18. Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Kindergarten Teacher
19. Taraji P. Henson – The Best of Enemies
20. Sandra Bullock – Bird Box
21. Michelle Pfeiffer – Where is Kyra?
22. Rachel Weisz – Disobedience
23. Emma Stone – The Favourite
24. Emily Blunt – A Quiet Place
25. Renee Zellweger – Judy

POTENTIAL LONGSHOTS (never count them out; I once had Natalie Portman in Jackie as a longshot, and look where she ended up):

26. Kristen Stewart – JT Leroy
27. Mary Elizabeth Winstead – All About Nina
28. Keira Knightley – The Aftermath
29. Charlize Theron – Tully
30. Thomasin McKenzie – Leave No Trace

31. Julianne Moore – Bel Canto
32. Hilary Swank – What They Had
33. Claire Foy – The Girl in the Spider’s Web
34. Penelope Cruz – Everybody Knows
35. Elsie Fisher – Eighth Grade
36. Rachel McAdams – Disobedience
37. Julia Roberts – Ben is Back
38. Rosamund Pike – A Private War
39. Dakota Johnson – Suspiria
40. Constance Wu – Crazy Rich Asians

41. Elizabeth Debicki – Vita and Virginia
42. Kathryn Hahn – Private Life
43. Chloe Grace Moretz – The Miseducation of Cameron Post
44. Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Fast Color
45. Amanda Seyfried – First Reformed
46. Jessica Chastain – Woman Walks Ahead
47. Andie McDowell – Love After Love
48. Chloe Sevigny – Lizzie
49. Anne Hathaway – Serenity
50. Natalie Portman – Annihilation / Rooney Mara – Mary Magdalene

Did I miss any other possible Best Actress contenders?

BEYOND THE BALLOT: 1994 and Women in Film

As you may know, the purpose of this Beyond the Ballot series is to study the female leading performances in film in relation to the representation in film as well as its reflection to the Academy Awards.

Here is a quote from an older post:

And I would want to see: are those “weak years” a result of lack of good performances of women in film? Or perhaps good roles for women? Or perhaps it’s the laziness of the Academy to look for outside-the-box choices to fill the final five? Or perhaps the laziness of Hollywood to even make films with women at the center? Or maybe the critical reception at time affected it (remember: majority of film critics are white male) Part of me thinks there is a smidge of sexism in these claims, but we’ll see.

I’ve decided that I want to discuss a particularly interesting year in women in film: 1994. Commonly tagged as one of the weakest years of Best Actress as the Academy Awards, it is safe to say that it interests me endlessly how that year got the tag weakest.

As a matter of fact, I have always been interested in this Best Actress year. Perhaps a post from The Film Experience triggered it again.

It must be immediately said that Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding is not included in this discussion due to her film being eligible the following year.

However, we must talk about Linda Fiorentino’s performance in The Last Seduction. Only ineligible due to a technicality, this performance is still talked about today as one of the contenders disappointingly ruled out due to a (fair) eligibility rule.

To see the complete Reminder List of Eligible Productions released by the Academy on 1994, click HERE.

First, we must take a look at the performances recognized by the Academy:

Jodie Foster – Nell

Jessica Lange – Blue Sky (WINNER)

Miranda Richardson – Tom & Viv

Winona Ryder – Little Women

Susan Sarandon – The Client

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Now, here are the performances who got key nominations (though this doesn’t necessarily mean they had closer chances of getting nominated than the rest):

Meryl Streep – The River Wild (Globe Drama nom, SAG nom)
Jamie Lee Curtis – True Lies (Globe Comedy win, SAG Supporting nom)
Robin Wright – Forrest Gump (Globe Supporting nom, SAG Supporting nom)
Meg Ryan – When a Man Loves a Woman (SAG nom)
Jennifer Jason Leigh – Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (Globe Drama nom)
Geena Davis – Speechless (Globe Comedy nom)
Andie MacDowell – Four Weddings and a Funeral (Globe Comedy nom)
Shirley Maclaine – Guarding Tess (Globe Comedy nom)
Emma Thompson – Junior (Globe Comedy nom)

The next batch of performance were not cited in other major awards, but whose films have been nominated for an Academy Award in other categories, implying that the film was indeed seen by Academy members:

Helen Mirren – The Madness of King George (nominated for Supporting Actress)
Irène Jacob – Three Colors: Red (Best Director + 2 other noms)
Jessica Tandy – Nobody’s Fool (Best Actor nom)
Melanie Lynskey – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures (Best Original Screenplay nom)
Sandra Bullock – Speed (Best Sound Effects Editing win + 1 other nom)
Julia Ormond – Legends of the Fall (Best Cinematography win + 2 other noms)
Isabelle Adjani – Queen Margot (Best Costume Design nom)
Jodie Foster – Maverick (Best Costume Design nom)
Chien-Lien Wu (Best Foreign Language Film nom)
Glenn Close – The Paper (Best Original Song nom)
Cameron Diaz – The Mask (Best Visual Effects nom)

These are the performances from past winners and nominees that may have been in the conversation:

Alfre Woodard – Crooklyn
Annette Bening – Love Affair
Geena Davis – Angie
Jessica Tandy – Camilla
Judy Davis – The New Age
Judy Davis – The Ref
Julie Walters – Just Like a Woman
Juliette Lewis – Natural Born Killers
Kathleen Turner – Serial Mom
Lena Olin – Romeo is Bleeding
Marisa Tomei – Only You
Meg Tilly – Sleep with Me
Meryl Streep – The House of the Spirits
Michelle Pfeiffer – Wolf
Sigourney Weaver – Death and the Maiden
Susan Sarandon – Safe Passage
Whoopi Goldberg – Corrina, Corrina
Winona Ryder – Reality Bites

Here are the rest of the performances eligible that year. I’m sure this is incomplete because I haven’t gone through all the films eligible that year:

Alberta Watson – Spanking the Monkey
Bridget Fonda – Camilla
Bridget Fonda – It Could Happen to You
Bridget Fonda – The Road to Welville
Crissy Rock – Ladybird, Ladybird
Debra Eisenstadt – Oleanna
Demi Moore – Disclosure
Emmanuelle Seigner – Bitter Moon
Gong Li – To Live
Guinevere Turner – Go Fish
Jada Pinkett – Jason’s Lyric
Jean Yanne – A La Mode
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hudsucker Proxy
Julianne Moore – Vanya on 42nd Street
Julie Delpy – Three Colors: White
Karen Sillas – What Happened Was…
Lara Flyn Boyle – Threesome
Lauren Velez – I Like It Like That
Madeleine Stowe – Blink
Madeleine Stowe – China Moon
Mary Stuart Masterson – Radioland Murders
Mia Farrow – Widows’ Peak
Natalie Portman – Leon: The Professional

Have I forgotten any other performances that must be included?

Is 1994 really a weak year for women in film? Or was it overhyped by critics as such? Or was eventual nominees a result of lazy voting that does not reflect the actual quality of performances that year?

I am seriously thinking of taking a look at a lot of these performances, the Oscar nominees included. We will see.

BEYOND THE BALLOT: Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep in Marvin’s Room (1996)

I wasn’t intending to do this as my first post for Beyond the Ballot, but being able to watch this film twice mad me realize it would be a nice start.

Marvin’s Room is a very 90s comedy-drama that is all about watching two acting legends act together, and it delivers. The film embodies its dramedy sensibility to extremes, and it is not always rewarding. Gwen Verdon’s character is mostly used for laughs, and I find her character to be the weakest link of the group. Here’s what I said about the film in my tweet/Letterboxd account:

Thank heavens for delicious sororal dynamics, meticulously crafted by Keaton/Streep, for pre-Titanic beauty of DiCaprio. Contains both broad heart-tugging & gritty specifics. These overcome the recurring (if unapologetic) sentimentality. Very 90s.

I am going to review Keaton and Streep individually.

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DIANE KEATON

ROLE: Bessie Wakefield, a caring daughter with leukemia
AWARDS: Academy Award (nom), SAG (nom), BFCA (nom)

Diane Keaton plays the daughter of his bedridden father (played by Hume Cronyn) and his fragile aunt (played by Gwen Verdon). As she does her best to take care of both, she comes to terms with her own disease that will force her to reconnect with her estranged sister.

On paper, Keaton gets the baitier role: the cancer-inflicted sister. However, she also has the burden of maneuvering her character through the screenplay’s broader dramedy strokes.

Take her first scene with her father and aunt. It hastily jumps between heartwarming drama and unsubtle humor. The tonal shifts are erratic and sloppy, to say the least. From her aunt’s self-admitted uselessness to the father’s malfunctioning bed, the scene roughly succeeds in fully nailing both.

But here’s an interesting thing about that scene, and this applies to most of her performance: Keaton lays out the humanity of her character so well, avoiding scenes from becoming an embarrassing tonal mess. It is her earnest character work that grounds each of her scenes with sincerity despite the film’s persistent preoccupation to push the dramedy hard (perhaps too hard on occasion).

Keaton also excels in keeping her character from being overly precious. Bessie is written as a selfless and caring martyr who has given up her life to her father and her aunt. There is even a scene where she opens up to Lee about her former lover, further demonstrating she lost her chance of romance. In these moments where the film turns the energy a bit down (the film tries to pump up emotions constantly) where Keaton lets her subtle emotional journey work.

Keaton knows the planned tearjerking moments of the film would not work if she has not laid out the completeness of her character. Her dynamic register of emotions, especially with Streep, make for the film’s more exciting character moments. She gets to portray the different shades of Bessie. Her character is no saint just because she is in an awful condition; her flaws as a sister and an aunt to Lee’s sons become more evident, causing her to be defensive.

In these moments, Keaton humanizes Bessie. She is as flawed and messy as her sister Lee, even if she maintains a composed and dignified facade. In her struggle with leukemia, her abrupt confrontations with mortality bring out her worst fears, and it is palpable. Keaton realizes the beating heart of her character and it shows her skillfulness in bringing out the best of the character who is clearly the emotional centerpiece of this film.

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MERYL STREEP

ROLE: Lee Wakefield Lacker, a strong-willed single mother
AWARDS: Golden Globe Drama (nom)

Meryl Streep plays the abrasive single mother who balances reconnecting to her estranged sister Bessie and his problematic son Hank (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).

In a way, Streep’s lack of the Oscar nomination: throughout most of the film, her character steps back from emotionality (which perhaps made Keaton a more obvious pick). Instead, her character’s maternal edginess brings the more abrasive moments in this soft-hearted film. It also just shows the embarrassment of riches of leading actresses in 1996 (more on that in the future).

Her first scene shows how her no-bullshit attitude. Lecturing another woman in the salon about how one should have a positive outlook. Streep owns the bluntness of her first scene and spins it to make it part of her character. She is an experienced woman, perhaps hardened by mistakes and heartbreak. Little she realizes that this is the springboard for her bigger problems: her son burns down the house and she must go back to help her sister with cancer.

Her trip back to her family would force Bessie to confront several issues. Streep maintains the edgy nature of her character. However, she expertly pulls back the layers to her character, the reasons why she maintains a tough exterior. She compensates her insecurities with a resilient face so as not to show others how injured her character is. This is where Streep’s deftness comes in: she smoothly shows the transition of her character vis-à-vis her relationship with her family.

I am still decoding Streep’s depiction of Lee’s affection for Bessie. They come to terms that they were never close, and the pretense is slowly peeled away and what is left is their honesty. We see Streep through her scenes with Keaton her own emotional journey as Lee reconnects with Bessie: the moments of discomfort, joy, and pain are all wonderfully crafted by Streep. What is also striking is the required restraint when she is with Keaton. Streep understands Lee’s place in relation to Bessie, and the drama is grounded in clear-eyed honesty.

And inasmuch as Streep does wonders with Keaton, she also does the same with DiCaprio. She plots the trajectory of Lee’s relationship with Hank with clarity. From cluelessness of Hank’s actions to a tough love meant to discipline him, Streep manages to clearly illustrate this emotional beat of the film, always making it clear that Lee’s love for Hank, though flawed, is sincere if not easily visible.

It is quite ironic that in two years’ time, Streep will also play a cancer patient (and get an Academy Award nomination) in 1998’s One True Thing. However, Streep cleverly manages to hand the spotlight most of the time to Keaton in service of the film. This move makes sense, and Streep manages to create emotionally honest moments without attempting to steal the attention from Keaton. It is a tough act to maintain one’s place in a story without demanding attention, and Streep achieves this balance.

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In both performances, Keaton and Streep give each other so much to create an engaging relationship dynamic that maximizes each other’s strengths as an actress. Both turn in lived-in performances which delightfully surprised me given how casting both suited and challenged each of them. It is a remarkable actress-actress work that feels emotionally resonant and honest.

For their respective performances, Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep both get:

Open Thread

Hello!

I’ve got some thoughts on who to review for Beyond the Ballot. But I’d want to read your suggestions?

What Best Actress Oscar year/s would you want me to cover? Or perhaps a non-nominated female leading performance that deserves to be reviewed?

ADD: Or perhaps, a female performance campaigned as leading despite being supporting? Or vice versa? Or a performance that really defines category confusion?

Let me see your comments below!

6th TFO Awards: Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

The nominees for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role are:

  • Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
  • Anne Dorval – Mommy
  • Isabelle Huppert – Abuse of Weakness
  • Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

And The Final Oscar goes to…

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Finalists (6-12): TBA

Semi-finalists (13-20): TBA

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PREVIOUSLY POSTED: Opening Remarks | Original Screenplay | Adapted Screenplay | Production Design – Contemporary | Production Design – Period | Casting | Costume Design – Period | Costume Design – Contemporary | Actor in a Supporting Role | Visual Effects | Makeup and Hairstyling | Sound Editing | Sound Mixing | Actress in a Supporting Role | Music – Original Song | Music – Adapted or Song Score | Music – Original Score | Cinematography | Film Editing | Ensemble | Animated Feature | Documentary Feature | Directing

Film Review: Ma’Rosa (2016)

Directed by: Brillante Ma Mendoza ma-rosa-poster
Written by: Troy Espiritu
Produced by: Larry Castillo

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In Brillante Mendoza’s latest feature, Jaclyn Jose stars as the tituar character, the Reyes matriarch running a small sari-sari store (term for a Filipino retail store mostly located in front of the owner’s house) who makes ends meet by selling meth in small doses. Things go wrong when she and her husband are taken by corrupt policemen. For the police not to press charges against them, Rosa is forced to reveal her drug supplier as well as to pay 200,000 pesos (roughly 4,000 USD) as bribe. With Rosa and her husband locked down in the police station, her three children are compelled to produce the bribe in the span of the weekend.

Despite its lukewarm reception at its Cannes premiere, the film suddenly bagged a surprise Best Actress win for its lead Jaclyn Jose come awards night, rising above more popular contenders like Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Sonia Braga (Aquarius), Ruth Negga (Loving), and Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper).

Despite the seemingly dark horse win, it is no fluke – Jose’s performance is right there with previous winners Rooney Mara (Carol) and Juliette Binoche (Certified Copy). I even prefer her over strong wins like Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars), Kirsten Dunst (Melancholia), and Berenice Bejo (The Past).

Known for her campy and over-the top performances in her recent works, Jaclyn Jose deserves to get this kind of lead role that plays with her strength in a surprising way. Removed of any form of vanity or self-consciousness, she moves around and delivers her dialogue like a natural. She makes the docudrama feel of the film work (and not the shabby cinematography). She hits no false note; everything about her performance slow boiling until it reaches its delicious pay-off in the end.

It’s a performance that haunts not because of how much is happening in her character, but how much she tries to keep herself intact until she crumbles down. In a delicious story of the titular character’s fall, Jose shines beyond her film. If only the film stayed with her for more. The rest of the cast work well in sync with the film’s entirety, but none shines other than Jose.

As with Mendoza’s other features, one of its most evident successes is building a tangible milieu where everything comes to life, whether it be the rural life in Tawi-Tawi (Thy Womb) or the constricted captivity inside a travelling vehicle (Kinatay).

Inching in details of the characters’ impoverished lives and their wayward means to survive serves the nuance in bringing them into a non-judgemental light. The discomfort in watching this (mostly by the aforementioned cinematography) somehow works in the context of the film-going experience, together with its concise editing, atmospheric music (by the ever-reliable and frequent Mendoza collaborator Teresa Barrozo), and haunting sound design.

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However, two things are holding me back from being totally won over by this film.

Firstly, while the film’s first half brims with palpable tension that is breathtaking in execution and pacing, its uneven structure in the second half somewhat distracts the film from its over-all power. While the first half invests on Rosa’s plight as a struggling mother, once she was jailed, the film decides to take the route of following her three children in pursuit of getting their bribe money. This would have been the logical route to take given the narrative’s turn of events, but this also served the film its own disadvantages.

Veering away from the character we empathized for the first half is probably not the smartest choice. Though the family’s over-all plight in desperation is effectively depicted, the film throws away its potential to let the audience stay with Jaclyn Jose, the film’s most potent asset. She is so good and effective as the lead character, she deserved to at least be seen more at the film’s second half. There is also the possibility of exploring the character’s psyche, especially Rosa’s, and that would have been a deeper exploration of the themes. Alas, the film focuses on the external experience of the characters; that’s an observation, not really a mistake.

Here comes my second qualm: the ending. Without spoiling the ending, the already iconic ‘fishball’ scene is probably what secured Jose’s best actress win at Cannes. It’s an enthralling actressing moment that serves the film its final emotional punch, a delicious display of how raw and real acting in film could get. Here, Jose gives it all. In quietness, she throws away any sense of artifice that brings out the rawness in this drama. This might probably be the single crowning moment of her career, a scene that packs power, proving Jose’s strengths as an actress…

…until the film overdoes the message by staying on its very final shot way too long. I wish the film had the confidence to stay on Jose’s face and use it as the final image that we see because frankly, her shot while eating could have been the powerful ending we needed. Alas, the film went too long in stating its message by showing another shot. True, we’re talking about a single shot. But when you have the film’s strongest scene, and it’s in the very ending, you wouldn’t want to ruin it by overstaying.

If you would notice, almost half of my review is all about how great Jaclyn Jose. This is mainly because aside from Jose, this is middle-tier Mendoza: I still think his best film was Thy Womb while Captive and Kinatay are stronger outings than this one. But so as not to take away anything from the film, this film has its evident strengths.

In terms of its Oscar prospects, I do think that while Ma’Rosa stands a better chance as one of the more high-profile films from the 85 submissions accepted by the Academy, this year has its more known contenders that might drown Ma’Rosa’s buzz. I’m not going to discuss whether Ma’Rosa will fit the Academy’s taste because they have done some surprising choices in this category (2010’s Dogtooth immediately comes to mind) so it’s never safe to just conclude. Here’s hoping for the best, though.

Grade: B+

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NOTE: NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED ON THE USAGE OF POSTER AND STILL PHOTO.

RANKED: Academy Award-Nominated Performances (2010-2015)

As you may have noticed, the blog has been in an indefinite hiatus (are you still there?). Now having some free time, I’ve decided to take things slowly and start writing a bit more. I haven’t stopped watching films, but I’ve ventured on a project that went way out of control (specifically, the Annual TFO Awards).

Meanwhile…

Nathaniel Rogers of The Film Experience have posted his personal ranking of all the 120 Academy Award-nominated performances from 2010 to 2015. For your enjoyment, here is the (very well-edited) video ranking of Ali Benzekri posted on Vimeo accompanying his post:

After reading their fascinating rankings, I was like “why not?” I have seen all 120 performances, and here is my ranking as of August 22, 2016; I’m quite sure this ranking would change any other day.

Here is my personal ranking of the nominated performances:

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BEST OF THE BEST

  1. Cate Blanchett as Jeanette “Jasmine” French in Blue JasmineWINNER
  2. Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron LadyWINNER
  3. Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliott-Dunne in Gone Girl
  4. Marion Cotillard as Sandra Bya in Two Days, One Night
  5. Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird in Carol
  6. Jean Dujardin as George Valentin in The ArtistWINNER
  7. Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers in Black SwanWINNER
  8. Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell in The Master
  9. Emmanuelle Riva as Anne Laurent in Amour
  10. Michelle Williams as Cindy Heller in Blue Valentine
  11. Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet in Carol
  12. Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark in The Help
  13. Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson in Birdman
  14. J.K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher in WhiplashWINNER
  15. Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in Gravity
  16. Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street
  17. Naomi Watts as Maria Bennett in The Impossible
  18. Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  19. Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome in RoomWINNER
  20. Jacki Weaver as Janine “Cody” Smurf in Animal Kingdom
  21. Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey in Brooklyn
  22. Bradley Cooper as Patrizio “Pat Solitano, Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  23. Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer in 45 Years
  24. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd in The Master
  25. Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass in The RevenantWINNER
  26. Nicole Kidman as Becca Corbett in Rabbit Hole
  27. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave
  28. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network
  29. Javier Bardem as Uxbal in Biutiful
  30. Patricia Arquette as Olivia Evans in BoyhoodWINNER
  31. Edward Norton as Mike Shiner in Birdman
  32. Sally Hawkins as Ginger in Blue Jasmine
  33. Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener in The Danish GirlWINNER
  34. Meryl Streep as Violet Weston in August: Osage County
  35. Anne Hathaway as Fantine in Les MiserablesWINNER
  36. Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote in The Help
  37. Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Creed
  38. Melissa Leo as Alice Eklund-Ward in The FighterWINNER

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ROCK SOLID

  1. Julianne Moore as Alice Daly-Howland in Still AliceWINNER
  2. Demian Bichir as Carlos Galindo in A Better Life
  3. Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald in The Revenant
  4. Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano in Joy
  5. Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  6. Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech
  7. Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in Silver Linings PlaybookWINNER
  8. Bradley Cooper as Richard “Richie” DiMaso in American Hustle
  9. Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave
  10. Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston-Fordham in August: Osage County
  11. Jessica Chastain as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty
  12. Emma Stone as Sam Thomson in Birdman
  13. Max von Sydow as The Renter in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  14. Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed in Wild
  15. Helen Hunt as Cheryl Cohen-Greene in The Sessions
  16. Colin Firth as King George VI in The King’s SpeechWINNER
  17. Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables
  18. Christoph Waltz as King Schultz in Django UnchainedWINNER
  19. Mark Ruffalo as Michael “Mike” Rezendes in Spotlight
  20. Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs
  21. Jared Leto as Rayon in Dallas Buyers ClubWINNER
  22. Matt Damon as Mark Watney in The Martian
  23. Melissa McCarthy as Megan Price in Bridesmaids
  24. Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser/Edith Greensly in American Hustle
  25. John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
  26. Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in LincolnWINNER
  27. Annette Bening as Nicole “Nic” Allgood in The Kids are All Right
  28. Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey in 12 Years a SlaveWINNER
  29. Gary Oldman as George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  30. Bruce Dern as Woodrow “Woody” Grant in Nebraska
  31. Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman in Steve Jobs
  32. Amy Adams as Charlene Fleming in The Fighter
  33. Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The FighterWINNER
  34. Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson in The HelpWINNER
  35. Ethan Hawke as Mason Evans, Jr. in Boyhood
  36. Jonah Hill as Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street
  37. James Franco as Aaron Ralston in 127 Hours
  38. Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone
  39. Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
  40. Benedict Cumberbatch as Aaron Turing in The Imitation Game
  41. Brad Pitt as Billy Beane in Moneyball
  42. Barkhad Abdi as Abduwali Muse in Captain Phillips
  43. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight
  44. Christopher Plummer as Hal Fields in BeginnersWINNER
  45. Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild
  46. Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke in The Imitation Game
  47. Jacki Weaver as Dolores Solitano in Silver Linings Playbook

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GOOD CHOICES, THOUGH NOT MY FAVORITES

  1. Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde-Hawking in The Theory of Everything
  2. Judi Dench as Philomena Lee in Philomena
  3. Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of EverythingWINNER
  4. George Clooney as Matthew King in The Descendants
  5. Laura Dern as Bobbi Grey in Wild
  6. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight
  7. Meryl Streep as The Witch in Into the Woods
  8. Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in American Sniper
  9. June Squibb as Kate Grant in Nebraska
  10. Steve Carell as John Du Pont in Foxcatcher
  11. Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs in Albert Nobbs
  12. Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle
  13. Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn
  14. Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln in Lincoln
  15. Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit
  16. Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn
  17. Berenice Bejo as Peppy Miller in The Artist
  18. Denzel Washington as William “Whip” Whitaker, Sr. in Flight
  19. Robert De Niro as Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Sr. in Silver Linings Playbook
  20. Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit
  21. Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz in Foxcatcher
  22. Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech
  23. Nick Nolte as Paddy Conlon in Warrior
  24. Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle

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I’M OKAY WITH THEM… I GUESS?

  1. Amy Adams as Margaret “Peggy” Dodd in The Master
  2. Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln
  3. Christian Bale as Michael Burry in The Big Short
  4. Jeremy Renner as James “Jem” Coughlin in The Town
  5. Mary Rylance as Rudolf Abel in Bridge of SpiesWINNER
  6. Janet McTeer as Hubert Page in Albert Nobbs
  7. Mark Ruffalo as Paul Hatfield in The Kids are All Right

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NOT BAD, BUT UNNECESSARILY NOMINATED

  1. Robert Duvall as Joseph Palmer in The Judge
  2. Jonah Hill as Peter Brand in Moneyball
  3. Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo in Trumbo
  4. Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel in Argo

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NOTES ON THE RANKING:

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Highest-ranked  winner: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine (# 1)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn (# 101)
Lowest-ranked winner: Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (# 45)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Highest-ranked winner: Jean Dujardin in The Artist (# 6)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo (# 119)
Lowest-ranked winner: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything (# 88)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: Rooney Mara in Carol (# 11)
Highest-ranked winner: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (# 30)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs (# 115)
Lowest-ranked winner: Octavia Spencer in The Help (# 73)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Highest-ranked nominee: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Highest-ranked winner: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (# 14)
Lowest-ranked nominee: Alan Arkin in Argo (# 120)
Lowest-ranked winner: Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies (# 114)

Strongest Year in…
Best Actress: 2015 (# 5, # 19, # 21, # 23, # 43)
Best Actor: 2011 (# 6, # 41, # 68, # 80, # 89)
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 (# 11, # 33, # 70, # 82, # 91)
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 (# 47, # 48, # 60, # 75, # 81)

Weakest Year in…
Best Actress: 2011 (# 2, # 12, # 44, # 96, # 101)
Best Actor: 2015 (# 25, # 48, # 61, # 78, # 119)
Best Supporting Actress: 2011 (# 36, # 62, # 73, # 102, # 115)
Best Supporting Actor: 2012 (# 24, # 57 # 104, # 111, # 120)

Ranking the categories be like:
Best Actress: 2015 > 2010 > 2012 > 2014 > 2013 > 2011
Best Actor: 2011  > 2014 > 2012 > 2010 > 2013 > 2015
Best Supporting Actress: 2015 > 2014 > 2013 > 2010 > 2012 > 2011
Best Supporting Actor: 2013 > 2015 > 2010 > 2014 > 2011 > 2012

Over-all ranking be like:
Actress > Supporting Actress > Actor > Supporting Actor

Performance Profile: Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)

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Role: Nina Sayers, a mentally unstable and fragile ballerina

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Black Swan is a thrillingly orchestrated psychological horror-thriller anchored on a powerful performance by Natalie Portman (more on that later). From the director of the modern classic Requiem for a Dream Darren Aronofsky, the film is an engaging depiction of the downward spiral a perfectionist ballerina experiences when she wins the lead role in Swan Lake. Technically, the film is flawless: the beautifully choreographed cinematography, on-point editing, intriguing sound design, and the iconic make-up.

How does Natalie Portman enter the film?

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Her character enters exactly the moment where the film starts. In a riveting dream sequence, Sayers dances the role of the White Swan as she is suddenly tormented by Rothbart, the terrifying antagonist in Swan Lake. This scene already embodies the majority of what to expect in this performance: a mix of technical and emotional complexity. (And the dance double is not an issue to me, by the way.)

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As stated above, the film really anchors on the character of Sayers, the troubled ballerina. First of all, this is a case of great casting: Portman always had the ‘good girl’ image that fits the character so well, but she is also more than that. To add to that, she already enjoys the advantage of being the sole lead actor in the film; everyone else is in the background, therefore giving her more opportunities to shine.

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And the film never falters to give her moments to relish as an actress. This is a flashy character to play, but the writing is not really the film’s strongest point. The film has a tendency to overdo the simplistic depiction of good vs. evil, so it is left to Portman to emphasize on small moments to provide nuances to the character to eventually build it in small moments even before the showier scenes come.

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Portman successfully careful calibrates the performance with humanity and believability. The story takes the character to haywire moments, but Portman makes those scenes even more terrifying because she has effectively earned our empathy.

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Her frustration, helplessness, jealousy, and confusion all feel real. These are all effective because we have seen her from the beginning, the innocent Nina, up to when she starts to lose grip of sanity. This makes the psychological turmoil more felt and tangible.

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Portman’s slow metamorphosis both as a ballerina and as an innocent girl is credible and engaging. As her character actively and reactively changes the course of her fate, She maintains a steady grip of understanding of the character as the narrative progresses.

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She brings the human part of the film amidst the entire spectacle. The character must have been difficult to play because it is all about everything around her going out of control and abnormal, and yet it is her character that brings the reality that we need for the whole roller-coaster narrative to work.

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Portman nails the big moments of the character. It is in the last thirty minutes of the film where she gets to highest peaks of this performance. This is where the film goes blurry within reality and fantasy, the horror in her mind and the monsters around her. This is the make-or-break turn of the film, and it all succeeds because the film is so well-directed and because Portman keeps it all together.

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Upon repeated viewing, while everyone during the 2010 awards season was all about Portman’s dancing in the film, it is actually the non-dancing scenes that stick with me the most. Sure, she is a really believable ballerina, but I tend to notice more the emotional complications the characters was set to have rather than the technical aspect of it which is the dancing part. Portman’s performance survives the craziness of the film and emerges as an acting triumph.

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ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS NOMINEES, 2009-2015, RANKED:

  1. Natalie Portman in Black Swan (2010)
  2. Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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This post is part of my part-time stint called Best Actress Project where I rewatch and review all the Academy Award for Best Actress nominees from 2009 to 2015. To read more, click here.

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Film stills courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. Protected under Fair Use. No copyright infringement intended.